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All dogs get sick from time to time, but there are a few breeds that tend to have more health issues and genetic disorders than other dogs. This guide will show you the dogs with the most health problems, which issues they are prone to, and how to increase your chance of getting a healthy dog.
In this guide:
- Most unhealthy dog breeds
- Are there dog breeds that shouldn’t exist?
- How to avoid getting an unhealthy dog
Most unhealthy dog breeds
If you have a dog from this list, then we strongly recommend you look into getting a pet insurance policy from Lemonade Pet Insurance or another reputable insurance company. Even healthy dogs from this list of breeds are likely to run into health issues sooner or later, so it’s important to make sure you’re protected.
Bernese Mountain Dog
Proud to be the only Swiss mountain dog, The Bernese Mountain Dog is a purebred and may be a descendant of the inbreeding of native flock-guarding dogs and Roman Mastiffs. They belong to the Working group. According to the 2003 study linked above, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a median lifespan of seven years, making them one of the dog breeds with the shortest lifespans.
They are susceptible to a host of health concerns, some minor and others serious. Among many, these problems include: cancer, kidney disease, liver disease, gastric torsion, Addison’s disease, Hemolytic Anemia and Thrombocytopenia, Bloat, and joint diseases.
Of course, this doesn’t mean your Bernie can’t live a happy, relatively healthy life. You should just make sure to keep an eye on these issues with help from your veterinarian.
>> Read more: Best Natural Joint Supplement for Dogs
French Bulldogs are a purebred breed and part of the Non-sporting group. They also belong to a smaller group of dogs called the Brachycephalic group, which are flat-faced breeds. Their short nose leads them to have upper airway dysfunction and obstruction, which can cause breathing issues. They have an average lifespan of 9 to 11 years. They’re prone to intervertebral disk disease (IVDD), allergies, patella luxation, skin fold dermatitis, hip dysplasia, and heat stroke. This breed delivers offspring by Cesarean section.
Some critics consider French Bulldogs an unethical dog breed since they were bred predominantly for looks rather than health—hence the frequent breathing and birthing issues. The Dog Tale doesn’t apply any ethical judgment to the breed one way or the other. If you have one, try to give them the best care possible. If you want one but don’t want to support unhealthy breeding, then we encourage you to try rescuing a Frenchie from your local shelter.
>> Read more: What Are Yorkies Allergic To?
A descendant of the bloodhound, the Weimaraner is a purebred dog breed. Weimaraners were bred to be a gundog (a member of the Sporting group). They typically have a lifespan of 10 to 13 years. They are susceptible to several health issues, such as entropion and ectropion, von Willebrand’s disease, hypertrophic osteodystrophy, spinal dysraphism, hemophilia A, and a potentially fatal issue, gastric torsion.
>> Read more: Purebred vs Mutt: Are Mixed Breed Dogs Healthier?
The Doberman Pinscher is a purebred working dog. They have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years, although one study found it could be as low as 7.67 years. About 60% of the breed is afflicted with dilated cardiomyopathy, a heart problem. Other issues include bloat, Von Willebrand’s disease, gastric torsion, cervical vertebral instability, and copper hepatopathy, to name a few.
The giant Great Dane is a purebred working dog. It has a life expectancy of 7 to 10 years. According to the AKC, bloat is the number one killer of these large dogs. They are also susceptible to dilated cardiomyopathy, eye disease, hypothyroidism and autoimmune thyroiditis, and hip dysplasia.
>> Read more: Wagmo Pet Insurance Review
The Cocker Spaniel is a purebred gundog that has a lifespan of 12 to 15 years. Despite this modest lifespan, they can suffer from elbow and patellar dysplasia, eye issues, ear infections, liver disease, gastric torsion, allergies, congestive heart failure, hypothyroidism, heart and liver disease, and epilepsy.
The German Shepherd is a purebred belonging to the herding group of working dogs. It has a lifespan of 7 to 10 years. These large dogs can experience degenerative myelopathy and both elbow and hip dysplasia. They can also suffer from cardiomyopathy, hemangiosarcoma, panosteitis, von Willebrand’s Disease, cauda equina, malignant neoplasms, pannus, hot spots, skin allergies, gastric torsion, cataracts, and perianal fistulas.
>> Read more: Pumpkin Pet Insurance Review
Like the French Bulldog, this purebred is another Brachycephalic dog breed. They belong to the Non-sporting class of dogs. Their average lifespan is 8 to 12 years. Dr. Becker states that the “exaggerated features of the Bulldog and other related breeds have produced a perfect storm of health problems that diminish the quality of life for many of these dogs, and often make them extremely expensive to own.”
Since their nostrils are narrow, and their soft palate longer, the Bulldog can have severe breathing problems, especially when it becomes overheated or excited. They are also predisposed to obesity, which can put too much weight on their joints.
Another giant breed, the Saint Bernard is a purebred from the working group. On average, they live 8 to 10 years. They can suffer from bloat much like other large breeds with deep chests. Other issues include: hip and elbow dysplasia, cardiac disorders, Addison’s disease, cancers, entropion and ectropion, osteochondrosis, immune-mediated hemolytic anemia, and immune-mediated thyroiditis.
>> Read more: Home Remedy for Dog Joint Pain
One of the most popular dog breeds in America, the Golden Retriever is a purebred gundog that lives between 10 and 13 years. They suffer from some minor health issues like eye disorders, but also more serious issues like subvalvular aortic stenosis. Unfortunately, Dr. Becker states these precious pups are rightfully known by veterinarians as “The Cancer Retriever.”
>> Read more: The Most Common Yorkie Health Issues
Chinese Shar Pei
The purebred Shar Pei belongs to the Non-sporting group of dogs. They live between 8 and 12 years. Many of the Shar Pei’s issues involve the eyes: entropion, glaucoma, retinal dysplasia, and SARDS. They can also be susceptible to skin fold infections, autoimmune thyroiditis, hip and elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, gastrointestinal issues like dog IBD, and some cancers.
This giant breed belongs to the working group. The large Newfoundland is a purebred breed that lives between 9 and 11 years. Like other large breeds, they are prone to gastric torsion. They may also encounter other health problems, such as sub-aortic stenosis, cystinuria, cardiac disease (which could be fatal), epilepsy, eye issues, von Willebrand’s Disease, and hip or elbow dysplasia.
>> Read more: Pawp Pet Insurance Review
The intimidating purebred Mastiff belongs to the working group of dogs. They live a relatively short life of 6 to 10 years. Their large size makes them susceptible to bloat and a number of joint and structural problems, such as hip and elbow dysplasia or cruciate ligament. Mastiffs are also prone to heart diseases, eye diseases, cystinuria (kidney defect that leads to bladder stones), epilepsy, and certain cancers like lymphosarcoma.
>> Read more: How Long Do Yorkies Live?
A descendant of the Mastiff, this purebred working dog lives between 9 and 10 years. Rottweilers are one of the most susceptible breeds to hip dysplasia. Elbow dysplasia and osteochondrosis of the knee and shoulder also occur in this breed. They are prone to several eye diseases and heart problems like cardiomyopathy and sub-aortic stenosis, von Willebrand’s disease, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, gastroenteritis, folliculitis, and a higher-than-average rate of cancer.
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The Labrador belongs to the gundog group of Sporting dogs. It is a purebred dog that lives between 10 and 12 years. The Labrador is prone to bloat due to their large chests. They are also susceptible to elbow and hip dysplasia, heart disorders, exercise-induced collapse, eye conditions, hereditary myopathy, and cancer.
>> Read more: My Dog Has Loose Stools and Smelly Gas
Pugs are purebred dogs that live 13 to 15 years. They belong to the Toy group. Their eyes can often bulge, causing pain. Other eye issues include ulcers or dry eye. Since Pugs belong to the brachiocephalic group of dogs, they have flat faces that can cause breathing problems and overheating in hot or humid weather. They may also suffer from hip dysplasia or skin fold infections.
The Boxer is a purebred dog that is part of the Working group. They live about 10 to 12 years. Boxers are prone to hip dysplasia, thyroid deficiency, degenerative myelopathy, certain cancers, and heart conditions such as aortic stenosis and cardiomyopathy.
The Basset Hound is a purebred dog that has a lifespan of 12 to 13 years. They belong to the Hound group. Due to their long, droopy ears, they are prone to ear infections. This breed is susceptible to hypothyroidism, gastric torsion, von Willebrand’s disease, glaucoma, bleeding disorders, and orthopedic issues like hip and elbow dysplasia and luxating patella.
Not surprisingly, the Bloodhound belongs to the Hound group of dogs. This purebred breed has a lifespan of 10 to 12 years. Like the Basset Hound, the Bloodhound has long, droopy ears that need to be checked daily for signs of infection. Their deep chest also makes the Bloodhound prone to bloat. And since they seem to have a hankering to eat almost anything, Bloodhounds can find themselves in need of a vet’s attention for toxicity, digestive upset, or gastrointestinal blockage by a foreign body.
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The noble Irish Wolfhound lives a relatively short life, just 6 to 8 years. They are a purebred dog in the Hound class. They can experience bloat, heart disease, von Willebrand’s disease, pneumonia, cancer, and liver shunt. Additionally, they can also suffer from injuries to the tip of their tail.
The Bull Terrier is a purebred that belongs to the Terrier group. They have a lifespan of 12 to 13 years. The Bull Terrier is prone to kidney failure, heart issues, and patellar luxation. Bull Terrier puppies are prone to deafness, so they should be checked before leaving the breeder.
The Poodle squeezes onto this list as some are not properly bred. They live, on average, for 10 to 18 years. The Poodle—standard, miniature, and toy—is a purebred dog and belongs to the Non-sporting class. Standard Poodles may suffer from gastric torsion and hip dysplasia. All three can suffer from cataracts, other eye issues, Addison’s disease, and sebaceous adenitis. Legg-Calve-Perthes, luxating patellas, and kidney stones are more prevalent in Toy and Miniature Poodles. Occasionally, von Willebrand’s disease and immune-mediated disorders are seen in the breed.
The Goldendoodle is a mixed breed that typically lives between 10 to 15 years. These beloved dogs are susceptible to all the genetic ailments of both Golden Retrievers and Poodles. These may include the skin disorder sebaceous adenitis, hip dysplasia, subvalvular aortic stenosis, Addison’s disease, and eye disorders like cataracts, glaucoma, or progressive retinal atrophy.
Are there dog breeds that shouldn’t exist?
The belief that certain breeds shouldn’t exist or that there are unethical dog breeds is a matter of opinion.
It’s difficult to apply moral absolutes to the mere existence of some animals. However, certain breeds are a cause for concern. For example, because of how French Bulldogs are bred, they almost always have to deliver their young by cesarean section. The fact that Golden Retrievers have earned the unfortunate nickname “The Cancer Retriever” is also unsettling.
In her social media post titled, “What vets really think about which dog you should buy” Veterinarian Cat Henstridge warns against certain canine characteristics and traits that are prone to disease or aren’t family-friendly to the average pet owner.
Dogs to avoid:
- Any dog in the brachycephalic group: Short-muzzled dogs with a flattened face. E.g. French Bulldog, Boxer, Pug, Boston Terrier, English Bulldog, Pekingese, etc.
- Any dog in the chondrodystrophic group: Breeds have the short leg, long body look. E.g. Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, Beagles, Corgis, English Bulldogs, etc.
- Dogs with an adult size smaller than a cat or bigger than a newborn calf
- Any breed from a working stock (unless you can provide it with proper exercise)
- Dogs that are smarter than you!
- Breeds that were used for gripping, guarding, or fighting
- Breeds known as “feisty,” “aloof,” or “fiercely loyal”
- Shar Peis
- English Bulldogs
- Teacup versions of any breed
- A breed with a disease named after it
- Dogs that are likely to develop neoplasia, (i.e. abnormal tissue growth)
- Dogs that cost more because of its special color. E.g. a “Chocolate Yorkie” or “White Yorkie“
- Dogs that have an average lifespan lower than your shoe size
>> Read more: Teacup Yorkie Life Expectancy
How to avoid getting an unhealthy dog
Get your dog from reputable sources
If you rescue a dog from a shelter, there’s no guarantee it will be healthy. But that shouldn’t deter you. Adopting a shelter dog that needs a home can be an ethical (and affordable!) way to add a companion to your family. You can help increase your chance of getting a healthy dog by asking the shelter questions about the health examinations they’ve had on the dogs and any current health issues. Learn more in our guide to adopting vs buying a dog.
If you choose to get your puppy from a breeder, you’ll want to get a full picture of the puppy’s background. A reputable breeder should allow you to see the puppy and its mother as well as provide you with health information about the puppy, the parents, the grandparents, their lineage, and more.
Ask what tests were done on both parents for common breed issues such as hip scoring or heart issues. A good breeder will use selective breeding to mitigate these problems. Additionally, ask the breeder for references from previous adoptive families to get their take on the breeder and to find out if their dog has any hereditary conditions.
Give your dog a healthy diet
Possibly more important than genetics is nutrition. Feeding your pet a nutritious diet can have profound effects on their health, like creating a strong immune system that can fight off disease.
Too often, traditional dog food lacks real nutrition due to low-quality ingredients, over-processed cooking methods, and fake preservatives added to make it shelf-stable.
If it’s within your budget, fresh, human-grade food like The Farmer’s Dog or Nom Nom Dog Food are some of the healthiest choices available, since their minimal cooking methods and fresh ingredients maximize the bioavailable nutrients for your dog’s body to absorb. Premium kibbles like Spot & Tango’s UnKibble, Ollie’s Baked baked dog food, or Sundays Dog Food are also great options since they start with real food ingredients.
Get pet insurance
Regardless of your dog’s breed or the diet you feed them, they can and probably will still get sick or injured at some point in their lives. We’ve fed our Yorkie a healthy diet from the beginning, but a healthy diet didn’t prevent him from breaking his leg when he was a puppy.
A pet insurance policy, such as Lemonade Pet Insurance, can help at a time like this. Having a policy in place before you need one could help cover unexpected vet bills that accrue so quickly with an illness or accident.